loyalty program, convenience retail, consumer research
The solution to winning the battle for customer loyalty lies at the fingertips of most c-stores — their loyalty programs — according to a new report from PDI.

Consumers face so many choices, whether it’s credit cards or cable channels or convenience-store brands. No wonder they’re hard to engage with. If you’re a convenience retailer, how can you convert casual shoppers into dedicated customers? How can you win the relentless battle for customer loyalty?

The solution lies at the fingertips of most c-stores — their loyalty programs — according to a new report from PDI, “The 2019 C-Store Shopper Report: How to Fuel Customer Loyalty.” While a vast majority of convenience retailers (73 percent) tout a loyalty program, they haven’t maximized its full potential as a tool for keeping existing customers and attracting new ones, according to the survey findings.

The second annual c-store report from PDI is based on an independent survey of 2,221 consumers and 239 retailers in the United States. The research offers primary data and insights into shoppers’ motivations and behaviors and engagement with loyalty programs, and was designed to help convenience retailers understand their customers better and improve their programs.

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Download the 2021/2022 PDI C-Store Shopper Report

Survey results validate the accessibility of convenience stores, with 89 percent of adult consumers in the United States saying they have visited a c-store in the last six months. Likewise, loyalty membership is growing, with 42.5 percent of consumers saying they belong to a c-store loyalty program, up 6 percent from 2017.

Meet Your Typical Shopper

With this report, the industry gets a data-driven picture of the average loyalty program member in this country. “The typical c-store member is a woman (50.2 percent) between the ages of 25 and 44 (47.5 percent) belonging to a household with two to three members (50.2 percent). She has at least a high school education (27.3 percent) and an income of less than $50,000 (50.2 percent),” according to the PDI C-Store Shopper Report.

Within the vast ranks of regular consumers, there’s a special group that’s highly sought by c-store operators —proactive customers who belong to a loyalty program. They are the best kind of customers, with 66 percent reporting weekly engagement with their loyalty programs and spending 29 percent more per visit than a nonmember. Fifty-seven percent are likely to make a store visit each time they gas up, 42 percent more likely to do than nonmembers.

What motivates these top-tier customers to join a loyalty program? Fuel savings. Fifty-five percent of shoppers surveyed earn rewards they can redeem for gas savings, the most valuable currency in loyalty programs for the fourth year in a row.

3 Ways to Attract Shoppers and Turn Them into Members

For c-store operators who aim for “customer satisfaction,” survey findings suggest it’s not enough. Satisfied customers represent the bare minimum for any business. What c-stores really need are loyal customers.

So how can c-stores turn regular shoppers into highly engaged members and grow their loyalty program membership? An effective loyalty program promotes not just a transaction but nurtures a continuing relationship. Here are three recommendations for c-stores:

Match customer wants. A good way to promote a loyalty program is by introducing a mobile app for rewards redemption if you haven’t already done so. Help persuade nonmembers to join your program with the promise of a convenient and easy tracking and redemption process using the app.

For existing members, you can bet they will welcome the innovation, judging by the high percentage (52 percent) of members who prefer to track and redeem their rewards through a mobile app. The number is a significant increase of more than 20 points over last year’s findings (31 percent). You could run a marketing campaign launching the app to keep existing members interested in the program and attract new members.

Take advantage of customer data you already have. A big segment of c-stores (72 percent) collect customer data, but only 25 percent use the information to identify potential customers with similar qualities as their existing loyalty members. Get more mileage from information you already have and use it to tap new customers. A marketing platform with a powerful analytics and reporting capability will make it easier to gain insights into customer data so you can personalize your promotions.

Leverage technology to improve your loyalty program. Convenience retailers ranked “too many different communication channels to connect with all of our customers” as one of their most serious challenges. Prioritize technology adoption and take advantage of what high-tech has to offer, especially in improving your loyalty program. A straightforward improvement, such as using an integrated loyalty and marketing system, could streamline the management of disparate customer and member communications in multiple channels. Choose a system with an omni-channel message delivery that will connect you with customers wherever (website, social media) and whenever they want. Engagement tools that allow segmented and targeted communications will help you reach thousands of members at once without sacrificing customized messaging for specific groups.

If you could do only one thing out of everything you’ve learned from this year’s PDI C-Store Shopper Report, let it be this: improve your loyalty program and unleash its true power for rewarding your existing customers, attracting new ones and increasing sales and profitability.

Did You Know: Your Source for PDI News provided by PDI, the leader in enterprise management software for the convenience retail and petroleum wholesale markets.